Christians are supposed to be happy, happy, happy – not fearful or depressed about difficult situations in life, right?
Those of us involved in discernment ministries or missions to cults and false religious movements are focused on false teaching and false teachers. Even as we challenge both, we very often encounter hurting people who are attempting to reach a family member or close friend who is lost and involved in a cult or false religious group. In addition to the fear and concerns they have for their loved ones, they often feel that they must erect a façade of “Christian cheerfulness” for some of their Christian friends or people from church. Expressions of doubt, fear, or grief might be met with “You just need to trust God” or “Cast your cares on Him, for He cares for you.” Although these admonitions are true, the way they are sometimes used only seems to add to the grief, doubt, and isolation that the grieving person is already experiencing.
Of course, it’s not just these Christians that experience fear, pain, and doubt as they struggle in this life. Dare we suggest that most – if not all – Christians face these dark emotions at one point or another in their walk with God? And very often, they feel they must face them alone.
What do you do in those sleepless nights? What do you do with grief, if it cannot be openly expressed? Does God punish his children who entertain doubts when in the throes of deep pain or even despair? Does He punish them for despairing?
In Psalm 42, the writer starts out seemingly bereft of God’s embrace and care.
My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” (NASB)
The Psalmist is wrestling with trusting God in the midst of difficulties and is in great distress, crying night and day. Someone is taunting him with the idea that God is either unable or unwilling to help him in his time of great need. Is it possible that he is asking similar questions himself? Where is my God? Doesn’t He know I am suffering? If He knows, does He care? Where is He when I need Him most? Nearly everyone reading this has had similar struggles at times in his or her life.
The Apostle Paul made a similar admission in 2 Corinthians 7:5-6:
For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within. But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus (NASB)
“Comforts the depressed?” Was Paul depressed? Did he struggle with fear? Yes. Was he a “weak” Christian? No, he was a human being, just as we are. He struggled with his emotions, just as we do. He had great responsibility and spent a tremendous amount of time addressing false teaching within the church. He faced many challenges. And yes, sometimes he got angry, sometimes afraid, and sometimes depressed.
God is not threatened by these doubts and fears. In fact, according to Hebrews 4:15-16, we have a Savior Who experientially knows what we are going through.
For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.(NASB)
God comforted Paul by sending Titus to him. God wants us to comfort each other, not hold each other at arm’s length in our times of greatest need. In Romans 12:15-16 Paul writes:
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. (NASB)
We are all for preaching, teaching, exhorting, and such. But sometimes we all need someone, not to preach, but to let us know that they have gone through severe trials too and understand how we feel. We need someone to love us. This is so important, because we are all broken people.
One of our favorite songs, which expresses “rainy day” care so well, is Gordon Lightfoot’s, “Rainy Day People”:
Rainy day people always seem to know when it’s time to call
Rainy day people don’t talk
They just listen till they’ve heard it all
Rainy day lovers don’t lie when they tell you
They’ve been down like you
Rainy day people don’t mind if you’re cryin’ a tear or two
Our God is there when we are struggling and in great pain or grief. He loves us greatly. And God uses people to communicate His love to the depressed, downhearted, and grief stricken. Let’s be there for each other. Let’s comfort each other with God’s great love.
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